Outlook 2010, Contacts, InterAction

Had a good time with one the secretaries today helping him out with Outlook contacts and the Country field.

By default Outlook has a Country field you can sort on or group by. But what is this Country field? You have the option of setting a business address, a home address, and an “other” address; but there’s no option to define a Country value independent of these. Through trial and error I figured that the Country field is automatically set by Outlook when you set a Business/ Home/ Other country. Which makes sense. (I didn’t test what happens if the countries for each of these are different. My guess is the last modified entry takes precedence).

Anyways, there’s a catch with the Country field being automatically set this way. If you create a contact in Outlook it works, but what if the contact is added some other way? Maybe the contact is imported, or in our case we use a CRM software called InterAction which syncs Outlook contacts with its database.

When someone adds a contact to InterAction and set the Business Country as something, Outlook doesn’t automatically set the Country value while syncing. Even opening and save/ closing the contact in Outlook doesn’t help. You have to open the contact, go to the Business address field, and then save/ close for Outlook to set the Country field. That’s not very practical so in general it’s wiser to ignore the Country field in Outlook and use the Business/ Home/ Other country field.

That was the first issue the secretary had. Next was that many Outlook contacts that didn’t have a Business Country had the value set as United Kingdom in InterAction. That’s odd because the value should have synced! I tracked it down to an InterAction setting. You see, when you make a new contact in InterAction it expects a Business Country field and leaves the default as United Kingdom (possibly a setting from our admins). But what happens is that – and this is a big I think – if a contact you open in InterAction does not have a Business Country value then it shows a value of United Kingdom even though the value is actually empty! That’s why InterAction showed these contacts as of being in the UK while Outlook had a null value.

Nice. That’s two things sorted for the secretary.

The last thing was how can he enter the correct Business Country values? For this I first grouped his contacts by the Business Country field and then sorted by the Business Phone field. This way I could see in one place all the entries that needed fixing, and based on their phone number I can decide which country they must belong to. So can I batch change the Business Country value? Sure! Once you group the contacts thus (by the field you want changing, in this case Business Country) select multiple contacts and drag and drop to the group you want and their field is automatically updated. Sweet! To make it even easier if you have many groups, simply go to the View tab and collapse all groups initially. Then expand the one without Business Country, and drag and drop to the group you want. Easy peasy!

That’s all. No screenshots as I typed this post from my iPhone using the WordPress app.